2018-02-27 08:20:45 BdST
Saudi King reshuffles top military posts, adds a woman minister
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman reshuffled some of the kingdom’s top military officers and several deputy ministers on Monday in a broad shakeup seen as elevating younger officials in key economic and security areas.
The monarch also appoints Tamadur bint Youssef al-Ramah as deputy labor minister, which is a rare senior post for a woman in the deeply conservative kingdom.
The chief of staff was retired and replaced by First Lieutenant General Fayyad bin Hamed al-Ruwayli while new chiefs were appointed to the country’s air defense and land forces, according to royal decrees published by state media.
No official reason was given for the sweeping overhaul, but it comes as the Saudi-led coalition's military intervention in Yemen against Iran-aligned Huthi rebels nears the end of its third year.
"Termination of the services of General Abdul Rahman bin Saleh al-Bunyan, Chief of Staff," the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said, adding that Fayyad al-Ruwaili had been appointed as his replacement.
Al-Bunyan's sacking came after he inaugurated a major exhibition this week by the Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), the state-owned defence company, which illustrates ongoing efforts to reform the sector.
"These Saudi royal decrees appear to be part of the kingdom's national defence strategy," Theodore Karasik, a senior advisor at the consultancy Gulf States Analytics, told AFP.
"A military transformation is under way in Saudi Arabia. The changes come on the heels of the SAMI exhibition, which is a critical part of the Prince Mohammed's reform plan to create an indigenous defence program."
Several new deputies in economic and security-related ministries as well as a handful of new city mayors were appointed.
The decrees also included the appointment of three deputy governors from among the descendants of Princes Ahmed, Talal and Muqrin – brothers of King Salman, some of whom may have felt sidelined by recent changes since his accession to the throne in 2015.
One of them, new deputy governor of Asir province, Prince Turki bin Talal, is the brother of billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who was detained in the government’s anti-corruption campaign and only released last month.
The way Saudi Arabia is run has seen major changes under 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who rocketed to the heights of power from near obscurity after his father became king following the death of King Abdullah in 2015 and is pushing big economic and social reforms.
He is popular with many Saudi youths, who make up the vast majority of the population, but has irked some with his unconventional approach, including a palace coup last summer in which he pushed out his cousin to become heir to the throne.
Saudi analyst Ahmed al-Towayan, speaking on Saudi state television, said the new appointments were “pumping young blood” into local government while elevating young commanders into top military posts.
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